Morgan Lanier/Melissa Libby & Associates
Amanda Newsom/Giving Kitchen
GIVING KITCHEN NAMED 2019 JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR
Nonprofit Organization Receives Prestigious Award for Providing Stability to Georgia’s Food Service Community
GEORGIA (March 14, 2019) – Giving Kitchen co-founder and spokesperson Jen Hidinger-Kendrick and executive director Bryan Schroeder are thrilled to announce that the nonprofit organization is this year’s recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. Since its inception in 2013, Giving Kitchen has served over 2,500 food service workers in crisis, including providing over $2.4 million in financial assistance through the Crisis Grants program and over 1,000 referrals to community resources through the Stability Network program.
“This award is a tribute to our community and beyond, and it has everything to do with the hard work of our staff, donors and volunteers who have advocated for Giving Kitchen,” says Hidinger-Kendrick, who along with Schroeder provides leadership and vision for the organization. “This community changed my husband's life and, quite honestly, it saved mine."
The Humanitarian of the Year Award is given to an individual or organization whose work in the realm of food has improved the lives of others and benefited society at large. Previous winners of the award include José Andrés, Denise Cerreta, Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter. At Giving Kitchen, these heroes wear aprons instead of capes and have made a promise to provide stability for the hard-working and vulnerable people of the food service community, which is a $19.6 billion industry in Georgia alone.
"We really feel like we are part of the movement that humanizes and brings value and respect to one of the most important job sectors in our country,” says Schroeder. “What started as a fight for one person’s life has become a fight for millions of people in the larger food service community who deserve the same safety net that other forms of employment provide.”
The theme for this year’s James Beard Awards show is “Good Food for Good,” and it perfectly describes how Giving Kitchen came to be. In 2012, Hidinger-Kendrick and her husband Ryan were busy planning to open a restaurant when they were faced with their own unexpected crisis: Ryan was diagnosed with stage-four gallbladder cancer. The outpouring of love and support that the Hidingers received from their local restaurant community following this devastating diagnosis allowed the couple to continue working toward their dream of opening Staplehouse. But the restaurant was re-imagined in a way that gave back to the industry that had been so generous in raising over $275,000 for Ryan’s living expenses. Now, all of the restaurant’s after-tax profits go to Giving Kitchen to help fund the nonprofit organization’s programs.
Ryan passed away on Jan. 9, 2014, but his legacy is very much alive in Staplehouse and Giving Kitchen, as well as in this James Beard Humanitarian award. Hidinger-Kendrick recalls having a conversation with him and her Staplehouse co-founders (Ryan’s sister Kara Hidinger and her husband Ryan Smith, Staplehouse’s executive chef and a 2019 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef Southeast) back in 2013 that now serves as a poignant reminder of just how much they’ve achieved.
“There was a moment when we were gathered around the kitchen table discussing our goals for the future of Staplehouse, and I said to Ryan and Smith, ‘I want you to win a James Beard award,’” she reminisces. “Receiving one for Giving Kitchen is the most powerful recognition because it allows us to truly carry on Ryan’s legacy, which has become the legacy of an entire community.”
Giving Kitchen fulfills its promise of stability by creating a hub of community resources and using its influence to help create a restaurant community where self-care is valued above all else. The organization has two core programs: Crisis Grants and Stability Network. The two types of Crisis Grants include Direct Grants and Matching Grants to provide financial assistance to food service workers affected by illness, injury, death of an immediate family member or disaster. Direct Grants fund basic living expenses such as rent or mortgage and utility bills as well as funeral-related expenses while Matching Grants match funds raised by the food service worker’s place of employment. The Stability Network is a referral program that connects workers in need of emergency assistance to social services that fit their specific needs, from housing and transportation to medical and mental health to childcare assistance.
“I believe that we’re all wired for empathy,” says Hidinger-Kendrick. “There is a true sense of stability that is created not only when living expenses are covered but also when secondary resources are offered. This is a life-changing service that prevents a downward spiral. I always go back to the feeling I had when we were supported. We saw this need and changed our scope.”
Now, Hidinger-Kendrick is more motivated than ever to use Giving Kitchen’s platform to change lives across the nation. “To receive an honor of this caliber speaks volumes about how much our organization has grown in six years, but when success hits, you can’t sit still,” she asserts.
As for what the future holds for Giving Kitchen, Schroeder sees this award as both a validation and an opportunity – a means to reach more food service professionals in need and a green light for the organization to expand. “As we prepare to serve every corner of this country, we’re really trying to knit together a social fabric for the food service community.”
He also is hopeful that Giving Kitchen will inspire restaurateurs to lay the foundation for an industry that’s a safe, stable place. “While we look forward to providing resources that will be applicable on a national level, we tell chefs and restaurateurs that they don’t have to wait for Giving Kitchen to make these changes. The real responsibility starts now with healthy relationships between owners and employees.”
Giving Kitchen invites all supporters - the community who made this award possible - to celebrate at Muss & Turner’s (1675 Cumberland Pkwy SE Suite 309, Smyrna, GA 30080) today, Thursday, March 14, from 3:30pm to 7:30pm.
The 2019 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 6, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 2019 Leadership Awards will be held on Sunday, May 5, in Chicago. Tickets to the awards gala go on sale beginning March 27 at jamesbeard.org/awards.
About Giving Kitchen: Giving Kitchen (GK) is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency assistance to food service workers through financial support and a network of community resources in order to create a community where crisis is met with compassion and care, and anyone can be a hero. Since its inception, GK has given over 1,500 grants to food service workers in Georgia. GK’s shift starts when theirs can’t. For more about Giving Kitchen, visit givingkitchen.org, follow @givingkitchen and download the GK app for iPhone and Android.
About the James Beard Awards: Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and further the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone. Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards programs. All James Beard Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia.
About the James Beard Foundation: The James Beard Foundation’s mission is to promote good food for goodTM. For more than 30 years, the James Beard Foundation has highlighted the centrality of food culture in our daily lives. Through the James Beard Awards, unique dining experiences at the James Beard House and around the country, scholarships, hands-on learning, and a variety of industry programs that educate and empower leaders in our community, the Foundation has built a platform for chefs and asserted the power of gastronomy to drive behavior, culture, and policy change around food. To that end, the Foundation has also created signature impact-oriented initiatives that include their Women’s Leadership programs, aimed at addressing the gender imbalance in the culinary industry; advocacy training through their Chefs Boot Camp for Policy and Change; and the James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards, which shine a spotlight on successful change makers. The organization is committed to giving chefs and their colleagues a voice and the tools they need to make the world more sustainable, equitable, and delicious for everyone. For more information, please visit jamesbeard.org and follow @beardfoundation on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.